Northwestern Events Calendar


Critical Theory in Critical Times Annual Workshop: Charles Mills

When: Friday, November 8, 2019
3:30 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: Harris Hall, 107, 1881 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Sarah Peters   (847) 491-3864

Group: Critical Theory

Co-Sponsor: Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities
Department of Political Science
Philosophy Co-Sponsored Events

Category: Academic


The White Leviathan: Nonwhite Bodies in the White Body Politic | A Conversation with Charles Mills

Friday, November 8, 2019
3:30pm – 6:30pm
Harris 107, 1881 Sheridan Road, Evanston IL, Northwestern University

The 2019 Critical Theory in Critical Times annual series workshop will focus around the work of Charles Mills (Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at The Graduate Center, CUNY) and, in particular, his forthcoming book The White Leviathan: Nonwhite Bodies in the White Body Politic (under consideration by Oxford University Press). Charles Mills will discuss this work with four commentators: Lawrence Blum (University of Massachusetts, Boston), Michael Hanchard (University of Pennsylvania), José Medina (Northwestern), and Alvin Tillery (Northwestern). This event is generously co-sponsored by The Center for Global Culture and Communication, Department of African American Studies, Department of Philosophy, Department of Political Science, Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, and Critical Theory Cluster.​

Race, white privilege, white supremacy, racial justice—in recent years all these terms have become central to public discourse. The “post-racial society” delusions of the Obama years have long since been dispelled, with the rise of the alt-right and white nationalism, and the protests of “Black Lives Matter!” But mainstream political theory, descriptive and normative, faces a challenge. How do you theorize the workings of race, how do you develop principles of racial justice, when the official picture of the body politic is a raceless one and liberal accounts of social justice, Rawlsian and non-Rawlsian, generally ignore the history and legacy of white supremacy?

In his forthcoming book, The White Leviathan: Nonwhite Bodies in the White Body Politic, political philosopher Charles Mills argues that we need to rethink our conventional understandings of the American body politic, and, correspondingly, the principles of justice for regulating its workings. Using Thomas Hobbes’s famous image of LEVIATHAN as an artificial construct composed of multiple human bodies, he argues that we should draw on the black radical tradition of thinkers like W.E.B. Du Bois and recognize the “whiteness” of LEVIATHAN. Race is likewise an artificial construct that nonetheless becomes incorporated into the macro-body of the polity and the micro-bodies of its citizens. Ignoring the actual whiteness and coloniality of the Western polity’s time and space will then only entrench them further, as in Rawls’s illusive representation of a supposedly ideal society that whitewashes the actual history of American racial injustice and the need for corrective measures to deal with it.

Charles W. Mills is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center. He works in the general area of social and political philosophy, particularly in oppositional political theory as centered on class, gender, and race. His books include The Racial Contract (1997), Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race (1998), From Class to Race: Essays in White Marxism and Black Radicalism (2003); Contract and Domination (co-authored with Carole Pateman, 2007), Radical Theory, Caribbean Reality: Race, Class and Social Domination (2010), and Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism (2017).

More information about the event can be found on the Critical Theory website. Flyer and schedule of the workshop are on our website. If you have any questions and/or would like to register for the event, please do not hesitate to reach out to Sarah Peters ( This event is open to the public.

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